Professor Khan Muhammed Atif Ghilzai

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Professor Khan Muhammed Atif Ghilzai retired from the Persian Department of Lucknow University. His political life found him chosen as an MLA to UP assembly from Bhartiya Jana Sangh platform, from which he resigned in 1980. Later, he joined Muslim Majlis. He is a fusion of an academician, historian, wordsmith and a politician. Haider Abbas of The Mill Gazettespoke to him about his experiences in public life.
You are often referred to as an encyclopaedia of Muslim history and politics... My interest in political history is because suffused with political anthropology, it helps us find results. My latest book in Urdu, Roosi Dahshatgardi se Amreeki Dahshatgardi tak (From Russian Terrorism to American Terrorism) is a small step in this direction.
Your books are on Islamic history in India and on the status of Muslims... I have written a book Taqseem-e-Bengal se Shahadat-e-Babri Masjid Tak (From Partition of Bengal to the Martyrdom of Babri Masjid). It is a survey of everything pre- and post-1947 including the Congress triplicity on secularism, orchestrated riots, Shi’i-Sunni riots, AMU minority character struggle, Urdu campaign etc, martyrdom of Babri Masjid.
You have often been referred to as an Afghan bibliophile?  I am a small student of Afghan history. My two books are Urdu Shaiyari Mein Afghanon ki gulbariyan (Afghan’s Contribution to Urdu Poetry) andPathan Shairaat kay Tazkire (Contribution of Pathan female poets of Urdu). I am also conducting a project on Afghans in India sanctioned by the University Grant Commission.  
How do you look at the Muslim presence in Indian history?  After the great Afghan and Mughal rule came the year 1832 when outside Delhi Jama Masjid there was an announcement: Khilafat Allah Ki, Mulk Badshah Ka, Hukum Company Bahadur Ka (Allah’s sovereignty, Badshah’s country and Rule of the Company Bahadur). This was witnessed by Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddis Dehlawi who gave a call from the same Jama Masjid to start the struggle for the end of the British rule or to attain martyrdom. The call spread like a wild fire from Delhi to Moradabad, Rampur, Bareilly, Bengal, Madras and soon the whole country was engrossed into an anti-British struggle led by Muslims. Families of lakhs of Muslims were wrecked. Around three lakh ulama attained martyrdom. From Delhi upto the Khyber Pass, dead bodies of ulama hung from trees. Thousands of Muslim families retreated to far away places like Nepal’s Terai region. Delhi remained a permanent Abu Ghuraib for decades. The result of this struggle came in the form of independence in 1947, despite the partition.
How do you describe the partition of India? It is for the Congress to tell. MA Jinnah had decided to abide by the Cabinet Mission Plan, which had guarantees for Muslims who were a numeric minority, by virtue of the Westminster model of democracy, and after waging a war for 200 years against the British, there was to be a secular (read Hindu) rule in the country. Nehru upset the applecart. MK Gandhi obliged by forcing  Congress President Maulana Azad step down so that a Brahmin is made the first Prime Minister of independent India. Hindus had decided that India was to be ruled by Hindus. Riots, in which Muslims were to be killed by state police, became an essential ingredient of Indian polity.
How this politics got institutionalised? After the partition, Muslims were obliged to vote for Congress en block out of fear of the backlash of Hindu Mahasabha, later Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS) and now by Bhartiya Janta Party. The Scheduled Castes people would vote for the Congress in lieu for the reservation given to them in government jobs. This was also done to keep them within the Hindu fold, and also for maintaining a majority. These two were supplanted by the vote of Brahmins and in return it was a Brahmin rule over India. There was never a development plan for Muslims. Justice Rajender Sachar report is a stark report card of the failed Indian experiment of democracy where Muslims can find a place, much more than their official numbers, only in jails! This despite the fact that Muslims had to vote for Congress out of insecurity syndrome. The strategy was to foment a riot in the first or second year, lull in the third and fourth year, and by the fifth year visit the Muslim riot-affected areas with some token sops, and then in return, ride to power after the fifth year. Congress instilled permanent fear in the Muslim community. Muslim riot victims never received compensation. Never were the Hindu perpetrators booked. Never was a police officer convicted for his complicit role. BJP inherited this from its Congress counterpart. Now both the leading parties compete to subdue Muslims in order to cultivate the Hindu votebank. This happens because Hindus, despite being in majority, nurse a fake persecution complex.
As a historian, how do you describe the condition of Scheduled Castes during the Muslim rule?  During the Muslim rule, there was a general rule for everyone. Muhammed Ibn Tughlaq and Allahuddin Khilji had a whole battalion of Hindu arrow spikers. They are today called as “Dhanuks” who are categorised as SCs. “Dhanuk”is derived from the Hindi word Dhanush which means bow. Muslims called Hindu scavenger as Mehtar which is a Persian word which means exalted. It is a suffix used for Allah in Persian language. Everyone had an equal opportunity to rise.
Q. How do you comment on Muslims to have been given reservation? The BJS founder Shayama Prasad Mukherjee wanted Muslims be given reservation in government jobs. Rajgopalacharya, KM Munshi, Sardar Patel all gave their assent to it. It was BR Amdedkar who torpedoed it because he wanted to help Brahmins as according to him there was also a class of Brahmins who would require alleviation from their social and educational backwardness and were to avail reservation. He was after all reared by a Brahmin and wanted to return favour.
What made you join BJS?The Congress holding Muslims to ransom and making merry over their votes made me start parleys with BJS. I worked with them for ten years – from 1967 to 1977. In 1977, BJS bagged 100 seats.  I had endless sittings with Deen Dayal Upadhaya, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bajraj Madhok and AB Vajpayee during my days with BJS. They considered Urdu as an indigenous Indian language. They engaged in an open anti-Muslim stand so as to consolidate the Hindu constituency. They were no apologists for it. They were ready to engage with Muslims too. I would often engage with them in terms of Qur’anic injunctions to which they would say that though the injunctions were right it was not possible for them to accept them. I worked with BJS with my Muslim identity and never parroted the party line. Upadhaya was the finest of all. I resigned from BJS after the Congress-sponsored riot of Moradabad in 1980. It was in the wake of Vajpayee’s statement that unless Muslims were present, national integration was not possible.
What was your biggest achievement with BJS? It could have turned out to be an achievement. I had wanted a Commission to be constituted to find out as to how Muslims managed to rule over India for centuries together. Muslims made Persian the courts language while the language on the street remained unchanged. It was to be found out if Muslims loathed regional languages or steadily enriched them? Did they subdue regional cultures or made them more acceptable? Did they re-name cities only changing their names or built new cities? Did they break temples, and if yes, why? Reasons were to be sought from the political currents contextualised from every breaking incident. How would Muslims defend a Hindu state against a Muslim invasion? How Muslims imposed jiziya on Hindus, as Muslims were to pay zakat, and also helped Hindus be exempted from serving in the army, a facility denied to a Muslim zakat-payer. The Commission could have been the biggest achievement of independent India but BJS lost power before it could even make a beginning.
How do you place Shah Abdul Aziz in today’s context?  Muslims are a living and a vibrant community. martyrdom is our forte. But, for the ulama of today martyrdom means casualty.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2011 on page no. 9

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